Facing Dental Emergencies: Handling Teeth Injuries with Calmness and Care

Summer weather has finally arrived, and with the change of seasons comes a change in activities. Both adults and children are outside more, enjoying the welcome change of pace of summer. With added activity, it’s a great time to remind patients of what to do if a dental injury occurs. Whether on the ball field or on the playground, we see both adults and children in our office after a dental injury occurs, and knowing the proper treatment can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.

The most alarming—and most serious—dental injury occurs when a permanent tooth is knocked out of an adult or child’s mouth. Follow these steps for an injured tooth or when a tooth has been completely knocked out:

  • As the patient or as a bystander, it’s important to first remain calm. If you are the bystander, reassure the patient that you can help.
  • Assess any bleeding and apply pressure to the gums if the area is the source of the bleed. If available, have the patient bite down on gauze at the site of the dental injury.
  • If a tooth has been chipped or cracked, collect all of the tooth pieces (if able) and make sure no pieces of tooth are embedded in the lips, tongue or gums.
  • If a tooth has completely been knocked out, take care to grab the tooth by the crown (top of the tooth) and not the root (bottom of the tooth). Plug the drain in your sink and rinse the tooth with milk. Do not scrub or use water to rinse off the tooth. Milk is used because it’s a similar makeup of your tooth. If you are able to, try placing the tooth back in its socket without touching the root, and have the adult or child bite down so the tooth is kept in place. This needs to be done quickly after the tooth has been knocked out. If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a container or small bag of milk to keep it moist. If milk is not available at the time, the patient’s saliva can also be used. Keep in mind, the adult or child can keep the tooth in between their check and gums to keep it moist, but caution must be used so that the tooth is not swallowed.
  • Offer the adult or child cool water or ice to help lessen swelling and ease pain.
  • Contact a dentist immediately to see what treatment is needed for the broken tooth.

If a child breaks a baby tooth, it is a different story. Baby teeth are not able to be saved if they are knocked out completely and the child will just have to wait until the permanent tooth comes in. If only a portion of the tooth is broken, the tooth may be able to be repaired with composite filling material by a dentist.

You can also help prevent dental injuries by wearing a mouthguard during activity. For kids active in sports, a mouthguard should be an added accessory to their uniform.

As a dental professional, my ultimate hope is that you will read these steps, remember them, and never have to use them. Here’s to wishing you all a fun and safe summer!

Mark Scallon, DDS